Known for his award-winning album covers for the likes of Brian Eno, Nine Inch Nails and Peter Gabriel along side his influential book covers for Samuel Beckett and Peter Ackroyd, multimedia artist Russell Mills has an immensely wide-ranging and impressive CV that’s longer than both your arms combined.
Hailing from Yorkshire but growing up between RAF bases located across Europe, Russell was eventually sent to boarding school in Surrey. From here and with the encouragement and support of his art teacher he moved on to Canterbury College of Art before doing a BA design course at Maidstone College of Art, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
I didn’t particularly get on with the tutors or their idea of a design course and spent most of my time experimenting with mixed media and hiding in the printmaking department producing hundreds of etchings.
Intrigued by the revolutions that were occurring in some of the departments of the Royal College of Art. Despite being advised not to bother, as he wouldn’t even get an interview, Russell decided to apply to the RCA but chose to defer from the originally intended Fine Art Course.
On a visit prior to applying, wandering around the studios, talking with students and staff, I found the Fine Art course to be painfully self-absorbed and insular. On leaving the studios I wandered across the corridor into another unnamed small studio, in which a group of students were producing an extraordinary diverse range of work. This was the MA Illustration department.
Fast-forward a couple of years and Russell is creating some of his best-known work for Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. With the freedom to pursue his own ideas and processes whilst creating album artwork for NIN, Russell has created some iconic pieces.
Right from my first commission for NIN there seems to have been an immediate mutual respect. This is exemplified in the trust he has in me, and in the fact that he allows me to simply get on with the work that I feel is right.
Russell describes his working process as “serious play”. Believing that artists are obliged to explore new ways of working and thinking in order to understand the world, experimenting is at the core of his work.
My work and the processes I employ constantly throw up surprising results; this is serious play; it should be fun, enjoyable and exciting while also having a serious end in view.
Russell has recently released the monumental and limited edition Cargo In The Blood, focusing on the art works made for Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks album. Each copy of the 320 page fully illustrated book also contains an original mixed media painting, check out the video below to find out how they were made.